Over the course of the next two weeks, as the 2019 NBA Draft draws closer and closer, we at Pro Basketball Talk will be taking deep dives into some of the best and most intriguing prospects that will be making their way to the NBA.
Today, we are looking at Bol Bol.
Previous draft profiles:
In theory, I get it.
Bol Bol is 7-foot-2. He has a 7-foot-8 wingspan. He is one of the very best big man shooters that we have ever seen, and when he is engaged and motivated and in the mood to play, he can be a dominant shot-blocking presence.
In the modern NBA, there is a ton of value in players that can protect the rim on one end of the floor and space the court at the other end. And Bol doesn’t just space the floor. He’s 7-foot-2 and gangly and can do things like this:
If you’re an NBA GM and you pass on the next Dirk Nowitzki, you’re going to find yourself in search of employment.
But when it comes to Bol, the truth is that there is no in-between with him on a basketball court. What he does well he does at an elite level. What he doesn’t do well is very hard to watch.
Let’s start with the part that, for my money, is the deal-breaker strictly as a basketball player: For someone that can be such a high-level rim protector when he wants to be, Bol is just a terrible defender. In an era where versatility and positionless basketball has become king, the saying you’ll hear in coaching circles is, “You are who you can guard.”
I have no idea who Bol is going to be able to guard at the next level. He was listed at 235 pounds by Oregon, but he checked in at just 208 pounds at the NBA combine. Combine that with his incredibly high hips and his total aversion to physical contact in the paint, and the idea of Bol trying to guard the likes of Boogie Cousins, Marc Gasol, Serge Ibaka and any other five that I’ve watched play in an NBA game makes my head spin. He was abused by Iowa’s frontline, and frankly, this was the norm for Bol despite the fact that he averaged 2.7 blocks on the season:
He also has nowhere near the footspeed or lateral quickness to be able to defend anyone on the perimeter. The idea of asking him to switch a pick-and-roll and try to stay in front of any NBA guard will cost his coaching staff next season at least two hours of sleep every night before a game.
If it sounds like I’m killing him here, I am. As tantalizing as his talent is offensively, he is a long, long way from actually being able to stay on the floor during an NBA game.
And while I think that, in theory, it certainly is possible for him to be able to get to a point where he can be a really good pro, the other major red flag with Bol is that questions about just how much he actually likes basketball have surrounded him since early in his high school career. He needs to live in the weight room for his first two or three seasons in the NBA. When he’s not in the weight room, he needs to be in the practice gym, learning how to play and where to be on the defensive side of the ball. Does he have the work ethic to actually improve the flaws in his game? And even if he does add the muscle and learn where he needs to be and when he needs to be there defensively, will it matter if he is afraid of physicality? If his conditioning was an issue playing just nine games at the college level, will he be able to handle the rigors of an 82-game season while carrying 250-260 pounds in an ideal world?
I think the answer to both of those questions is ‘no’.
Which leads me to the final red flag.
Bol missed the final two months of the season with a fractured navicular bone, which is a terrifying injury for any player, let alone a 7-foot-2 center that needs to add weight while getting in shape. Can he avoid reaggravating the injury when he has 50 more pounds on his frame? Can he do that while putting in the work that it will take to get into NBA shape with that extra weight?
And we’re asking all of this from a kid that already has work ethic concerns?
There’s a very real chance that Bol could end up being out of the league quicker than Anthony Bennett or Hasheem Thabeet. Drafting him early and getting absolutely nothing out of the pick is another way to find yourself filing for unemployment.
Like I said, I get the upside.
But if I am an NBA GM, I’m letting someone — anyone — else deal with that stress.